Two-time Olympic Gold medalist Zou Shiming made his successful pro debut this past Saturday at the Cotai Arena at the Venetian Resort in Macau, China. The televised card also included two entertaining world championship fights. It sets the stage for what is to come within the eventful world of boxing programming.
It was said throughout the week that this could be the most watched boxing match the world has ever seen, with the event being broadcast to nearly every home in China. As the most successful amateur boxer from the People's Republic of China, and a national hero in his country, it made sense for Shiming (1-0, 0 KO), China's first ever Olympic boxing gold medalist, to make his pro debut in front of his beloved fans in Macau. Headlining a card that also featured WBO junior lightweight and WBA/WBO flyweight championship bouts, Shiming was the center of a rather elaborate production that included blasting music, smoke, strobe lights and colorful graphics upon his entrance to the ring. All of the pressure was on the 32-year old flyweight to deliver a performance aligned with the pre-fight hype. He did display a good deal of poise and confidence, albeit against an 18-year old Eleazar Valenzuela (2-2-2, 1 KO) who had never fought outside of his native Mexico.
Shiming earned a staggering $300,000 for this fight, one in which he was victorious by unanimous decision with scores of 40-36 on all three cards. Promoter Top Rank is already contemplating returning to Macau later this summer where Shiming may headline a six-rounder, with newly crowned WBA/WBO flyweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada potentially making the first defense of his title there against mandatory challenger Milan Melindo.
The HBO production and broadcast team will make their way down to the famed 50,000 seat Club Atlético Vélez Sarsfield in Buenos Aires on April 27 when WBC middleweight champion Sergio Martinez (50-2-2, 28 KO's) will be making a highly anticipated homecoming to defend his title against England's undefeated interim WBA middleweight champion Martin Murray (25-0-1, 11 KO's). The Argentine-born Martinez, who relocated to Spain in 2002 and now resides in Oxnard, California, has not fought in his native Argentina since February 2002, and it will be his first there as a reigning world champion. Ticket sales reflect the enormity of this event, with a reported few hundred remaining after only the first week on sale. An additional 40 million Argentines are expected to watch their champion on free public television.
The international travel continues on May 25 with an HBO split-site doubleheader where former IBF super middleweight champion Lucian Bute (31-1, 24 KO's) moves up in weight to fight former WBC light heavyweight titleholder Jean Pascal (27-2-1, 16 KO's) in a non-title clash between two highly decorated Canadian fighters in front of over 15,000 fans at the Bell Centre in Montreal. This action will be proceeded by a highly anticipated rematch across the pond in London for a super middleweight unification fight between IBF champion Carl Froch (30-2, 22 KO's) and WBA Super titlist Mikkel Kessler (46-2, 35 KO's). Tickets for this event at the O2 Arena reportedly sold out in 2.5 hours, with over 17,000 frenzied fans to be in attendance to see if Froch can avenge his April 2010 unanimous decision loss to Kessler in what was a 2010 'Fight of the Year' candidate. The fight will also be telecast on Sky Box Office, the 35-year old Froch's first appearance on pay-per-view.
The Bell Centre will also be host to Chad Dawson's (31-2, 17 KO's) defense of his WBC light heavyweight belt when he returns to Montreal to face Adonis Stevenson (20-1, 17 KO's) on an HBO-televised broadcast on June 8, bringing two boxing events in three weekends to Canada.
This global reach can only be good for the sport. It is called HBO World Championship Boxing for a reason.
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